Understanding the self-absorbed, demeaning, manipulative, controlling, and competitive narcissist and how to stop being a do-gooder and losing yourself…aligned with the Biblical Cain and Abel story

Posts tagged ‘Abel’

There is no honour among thieves.

“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed”

~J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

church kindergartedA widespread criticism at the self-absorbed, cainistic church I attended was the lack of closeness among members due to its large size. One day a layperson developed a small group program to juxtapose attendees. Administration recognized the value in this idea, expanded and rewrote the program to fit the needs of the church and launched it as a new, fresh church initiative. Now attendees could connect with others in over thirty small groups of varied interests. It was exactly what the congregation needed.

The church involved the creator of the idea just enough to give him credit for his proposal and to make him think he was part of the chosen few, but from the outside it looked like he was utilized for all the obligatory record keeping and paperwork and not much more. He never achieved status equal to the powers to be, nor could he claim the small group idea as his own because it had been redrafted to further Cain’s career and notoriety. Like Abel’s blood, Cain’s cryptic needs cried out from the ground.

I started a small outreach group because the church had  only two community missions: (1) A large Christmas project with an adjacent school; and (2) a “Souper Bowl” Sunday when churchgoers donated a can of soup or $1 to give to the needy on Super Bowl weekend. The latter had continued at the church only because it was the passion of a former employee, and although she no longer attended services there, she maintained the project by showing up each year with a truck to transport the canned goods to a local food bank.

One of the first activities launched by my outreach group was to spend an afternoon at a poverty-stricken school just before Thanksgiving, helping young kids decorate sugar cookies to resemble turkeys. Not only did the kids have a great time, but also the teachers appreciated us as they had no time for specialized crafts. It was a win-win for all.

However, our group’s greatest achievements was when we filled forty-two gift boxes to send to U.S. soldiers, fighting in Iraq, loading them with everything from long distance telephone cards to per-packaged beef jerky, from writing paper and stamps to crossword puzzle books, from beauty products to candy and nuts, from tooth brushes and tooth paste to razors and so much more. As word traveled throughout the congregation about our project, attendees swamped us with items for the boxes. We were thrilled even as the church administration pretended to ignore the event.

Can you imagine doing something that important at your church and having the entire church administration ignore it? Cainists do that, along with their followers who are blinded by their desperate need to be part of the elite group. Just follow his lead, they think. Otherwise, they might be ostracized from sitting at his right hand.

It was unforgivable what happened next. Giving to those in need should never be an uphill battle in a church, yet, from start to finish, the cainistic minister and his chosen followers created roadblocks. In the Biblical story God looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but Cain was upset when his brother did well. The cainistic minister was always upset if others skated into the limelight and stole his glory. He would not help our group succeed because he was not center stage. Small groups that received acknowledgement took place in outside agencies and institutions not at his church. Instead of working with us, he tried to discourage us by making everything doubly hard.

First, I sent him an email, asking permission to use an available room at the church to fill the gift boxes. He ignored the email. I waited several weeks and asked again. Finally, he answered by redirecting me to the operations manager, who was a staunch disciple, a puppet who did everything Cain told him to do. Like Cain he dragged his feet for weeks but finally told me to complete a requisition form to request the room, implying that use of the room was “iffy” based on whether there would be space available on that particular Saturday afternoon. It seemed bizarre that he would not know the availability of a room on a specific date. In truth, nothing moved forward without the approval of Cain. The operation manager was a lame duck until Cain decided what would happen.

I waited more and heard nothing. This kind of treatment was familiar due to a subversive attitude that the minister and the elite chosen were the church. Whenever I had an idea, those in authority would wait me out, hoping I would forget the request and move on. If the idea didn’t advance Cain directly, it was devalued or ignored. This time I was persistent and followed-up a third time.

Finally, the operations manager said we could use a large room that was divided by an accordion-like door, but there were strict instructions that we were to stay on one side of the room only and not open the divider. There was no explanation about why this was the case, which was mysterious because no one was using the other half of the room. It was just more of Cain’s control issues, always micromanaging, particularly when he was not the focal point or in charge. We could use the room only if we did exactly as he ordered.

I notified all thirty-three small group leaders, asking if their group would like to take part in the activity and/or make donations for the gift boxes. Many expressed how much they had always wanted this kind of activity at the church. Many asked if we could do more of it. I found out later that more would be done, but not with the credit, recognition or help of our group.

We were cramped for space as the congregation dropped off items and goods all afternoon. When one group member heard that the cainistic minister had ordered us to use only part of the area for our undertaking, she marched to the middle of the room and without a word, slid open the divider, giving us twice the space. We spread out and went to work. Cain’s arbitrary, ludicrous dictate that we use only half the room for no other reason than he dictated it was a clear-cut example of the destructive, power-hungry antics of a Cain.

We packaged the boxes as instructed for mail delivery to Iraq. Each mailer required  triplicate forms attached to the boxes, addressed in a strict, correct style defined by the United States Postal Service. At the end of the day, we were exhausted but had forty-two gift boxes signed, sealed and ready for delivery to Iraq.

My co-leader, who was not privy to the self-absorbed underpinnings of this cainistic church, called me at home that evening, praising my management skills, stating that he was certain that when the church learned of our successful project, they would want to air it on the local news. I knew that would not happen. Every month one specific  group leader was recognized at our monthly celebration meetings for their ingenuity in developing their particular small group. The church videotaped the group in action, then showed the video at the monthly meetings. Almost every group was acknowledged except ours before the cainistic minister was pressured out and the groups dissolved. No one showed up to videotape our activity that day. We were invisible. We didn’t exist.

Although the effort was a huge success, we ran into a big snag: We needed postage to mail all those gift boxes to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. We spread the word, asking for donations. Predictably, the church administration was non-responsive. We received some money from small group leaders but fell short by two-hundred dollars. Incredibly, my co-leader’s boss, who attended a different church of a different religion, heard about our circumstances and paid the necessary postage. Someone outside the church had a heart and contributed the needed funds to mail the boxes to the soldiers.

The story does not end there. Our gift boxes were not only ignored but the idea of performing community outreach was pirated and kicked off as an ongoing church event. Cainists are thieves, lifting any idea that will make them stand out. First Cain stole the idea to create small groups, and then he stole the idea of church outreach when he caught on that the congregation liked the idea.

However, Cain solicited a different small group leader–one with whom he had trekked to Europe on an organized church trip–to execute the new outreach programs at the church. I overheard her praise him and his wife and knew instantly that she was his latest source of cainistic supply–feeding his insatiable need for praise and attention.

This other group leader worked with various community agencies to develop and supervise monthly volunteer activities through the church, such as, filling emergency food boxes (sounds familiar), serving food at shelters, and sorting and organizing clothing for homeless people. Our group idea was good enough to steal but not good enough to acknowledge or give us credit. When it comes to cainism, there truly is no honor among thieves.They will take from anyone at any time if it benefits and glorifies them.

I am glad those outreach volunteer activities continue at that church today but under the direction of a different lead minister.




Lack of Empathy for Others

“When a person is solely focused on the pursuit of their own interests, they have all the potential to be unempathic.” —Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen (more…)

Must-Have Power

As David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen state in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, leaders in an abusive religious system “spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it, as well.”[i] Those with true spiritual power walk their talk. Their life is their message. Cain’s life is a lie, a sham, a charade. He must spend all his time telling you how great and powerful he is to cover up the farce.

The control issues in my cainistic church grew stronger and increasingly more destructive over the years. For example, before a person could teach classes in this church, it was mandatory that they complete a two year program to become a licensed instructor. One day Cain boldly announced to all the teachers that starting immediately it was mandatory that they attend every Sunday service, and if their attendance was not in agreement with his new ruling, he would revoke their privilege to teach classes at the church. Everyone must come underneath Cain.

That was the day my friend, Pam (name has been changed to protect her privacy), walked out. Although she had been a member and a licensed instructor for decades, she dropped out of the church never to return.  She did not quibble or protest but prudently walked out of the mire of control and misuse. There would have been no advantage in talking to Cain about his decree because once he made a decision, there was no turning back. Furthermore, nobody questions Cain without paying for it, and he never forgets a dissenter. Even if Pam believed God called her to be a teacher, Cain determined the conditions of that calling. If the instructors taught classes at the church, then they must pay the price of listening to his sermons each and every Sunday.

Likewise, the staff at the cainistic church was overworked and underpaid due to his autocratic leadership. He demanded long hours without complaints. Both burnout and turnover were vast. When fiscal deficit hit the roof, we learned that the staff had received one 3 percent raise in 5 years while the cainistic minister had received a 10 percent raise every year. The monies were unquestionably appropriated to the minister first, and the staff was considered if there was money left over. He also made sure he had a contract, not a salary—all of which exposed his lack of empathy. There was no feeling for others, only for him.

As long as the church board did nothing to prevent this distortion and unfairness, he got away with it. There were nine board members that made business assessments and decisions with Cain. Where were they during all this staff abuse? Why did they blindly follow his dictates without daring to go against his decisions? In short, they complied to avoid being shamed. The shame Cain doled out was so vindictive and nasty at times, it was akin to an emotional crucifixion.

While I was there, the cainistic minister harassed and lost six worship assistants in seven years. One of his dirty little control tricks was to ask where his assistant was during the middle of a Sunday service as if he suddenly needed her to check the thermostat or get him a bottle of water because his throat was dry and he was having trouble speaking.

If she was not in the sanctuary at that moment he called out her name, she caught hell later. I suspected he usually did that after he had already watched her leave the room. He was that devious. Destructive, malignant Cains find enjoyment in seeing others suffer. They are extremely mean-spirited and diabolical, always looking for a reason to lord their power over an Enabler and punish her. After one of the assistants quit, she quietly told me that nothing was ever good enough for him. No matter how hard she tried, he always criticized something about her.

I watched him move from assistant to assistant, heaping spiteful mistreatment on his targets who had once believed in him like I had believed in him, but who turned into nothing more than his battered toys. He picked at their flaws and just before they smacked the proverbial wall, he withdrew the abuse, feigning that he didn’t know what he had done to upset them. They must be supersensitive, he decided. He was always so blameless, so innocent of any wrongdoing.

If he did not know his crime, then he could not be held responsible for it, could he? Like the story of Cain and Abel, even when God tried to show Cain his mistakes by letting the straw smolder rather that burn, Cain refused to admit he made a mistake. Instead, he made one last attempt to deny everything. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he retorted to God. Heaven forbid that he should stand up and accept responsibility for killing Abel.

Hundreds of demoralized staff, speechless board members, disgruntled congregation and attendees fled when they caught on to the hypocrisy. I asked administration and board members, who were incessantly talking about “building the numbers” (which meant adding more members to the rolls) why they did not talk with the people who left to find out why they had left. It fell on deaf ears. When I left for almost a year, not one person ever contacted me to say they missed me or ask me why I had left the church. Cain knew why, and his administration and followers knew, too. As you might imagine, the numbers dwindled and the door was always swinging.

Volunteers were treated with the same perfunctory manner.  If the minister felt threatened by a volunteer, he would schedule a mandatory meetings at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning when a volunteer, who was lovingly and willingly giving free time, might have personal activities scheduled or want to sleep in. I once retorted, “You’d think we worked here the way they treat us.”  There are no such thing as personal boundaries when Cain abuses his authority; They are routinely ignored or trampled on.

[i] Johnson, David, VanVonderen Jeff. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Bethany House Publishers. MN 1991

The Enabler

Recovered_JPEG Digital Camera_1127Although there is much more to learn about Cain, it’s only fair to touch on some aspects of the Enabler. In the story of Cain and Abel, Abel gave an incontrovertible, heartfelt contribution to God by sacrificing his best lamb. The modern-day Enabler is one who symbolizes goodness, love, and cooperation. She is also someone who takes pleasure in helping and needs to be needed.

Without a doubt, there is a huge abyss between helping and enabling. Helping is to assist others to do what they can’t do for themselves. Enabling is to take on the responsibilities that Cain can and should be doing for himself. In short, enabling is disabling. It cushions Cain from the consequences of his actions. It also gives him the go-ahead to dole out yet more destructive behavior.

Cain must always maintain a grandiose sense of self-importance with strong feelings of entitlement. Researchers Oldham & Morris (1995) say that dependent, self-sacrificing personalities are a good match for Cain, although Cain will never reciprocate. Enablers fall into three categories:

• The Pleaser loves to serve others and needs to be needed. Researcher Roseanne M. Boldt in her paper “Who Feeds the Narcissism,” says this type of Enabler has a life stance that says, “You demand and take and dominate me, and I please and give and elevate you.” Because she feels inadequate and unlovable, her ace in the hole is to always be nice and cooperative no matter what. Her worth is dependent on pleasing Cain.

• The Victim finds love and attention through suffering. Her life script is that she is weak and helpless. She believes she has no power over her own life. This type of Enabler may be the abused spouse or partner in the relationship. Boldt says the Victim’s life script is, “Life, God or fate may victimize me for a special reason.” She is extremely vulnerable to the seductive charms of Cain.

The Martyr gives up her own interests. She is willing to suffer for the cause. Her life script, writes Boldt, is this. “I will suffer and die for my beliefs and you will provide the opportunities for suffering and death.” Her willingness to accept poor treatment makes her feel noble and superior. Inwardly she believes that suffering brings a reward and the suffering leads to moral superiority

It’s Your Fault, Not Mine

Driven to project an image of being a good guy, Cain sees himself as brilliant and you as dumb and easily manipulated. Because he must always look good, you must always absorb his mistakes and the destruction that evolves due to his selfish decisions.  He is known to spread negative ideas about you to others to protect his image. This projection is where the term “scapegoating” comes from. You become a scapegoat for his problems. I knew one Cain who made it clear that his wife was part of his decision-making if he thought the decision would be judged negatively. Most everyone knew that he made all the decisions in the relationship. Including her was his way of making her the scapegoat for criticism that might come his way.

He will never lower himself to offer an apology. Repentance is not a good word or a bad word. It merely means “to turn around and go the other way” When God asked Cain the whereabouts of his brother Abel, Cain spat, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” He would not confess that he had killed his brother or even admit the error of his ways.

In short, Cain will not admit he made a mistake. That would render his image as imperfect. In his deluded thinking, if he is imperfect, he feels worthless. He cannot tolerate the shame associated with that idea, so he turns it around and projects the “badness” on you. You will never win with a Cain. Everything will always be someone else’s fault.

The Story of Cain and Abel

The Cain and Enabler story reveals how self-aggrandizement and self-centeredness destroy relationships and self-respect. Like the Cain of old, the modern-day Cain is puffed up with an inflated, grandiose view of his self-importance, arrogance, and feelings of entitlement, demanding special treatment regardless of merit. Cain is filled with pride and feels superior. He is so superior, in fact, that he doesn’t believe he has to follow God’s desires. Here is the biblical story of Cain and Abel:

Genesis 4:1-16 (King James Version)

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

The bible refers to the word hubris as pride. Cain was filled with pride. Narcissism is the word for today. My word is cainism. Whether you call it pride, hubris, narcissism or cainism, Cains all suffer from the same disorder—a grandiose self-perception wich reduces other people to things. If you are a “thing”, you have no rights. Cain can trample on you without guilt.

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